As part of Vivid Sydney, the REMIX Summit will take on some of the issues biggest faced by the cultural sector right now. Posed as the intersection between culture, technology and entrepreneurship, an impressive panel of speakers will stimulate thinking around creative cities, cultural consumption, sponsorship, content and storytelling, market development, social enterprise and more.

Some major names are on the bill – the MCA, the Guardian, Intel, Etsy, Vice – featuring speakers like the specialist responsible for the digital transformation of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York and the City’s own Executive Manager for Culture.

We had a chat to the remarkable festival director/writer/broadcaster Marcus Westbury, who on a small budget revived Newcastle CBD with his not for profit, DIY urban renewal scheme Renew Newcastle. Renew Newcastle created an interesting place to live in and visit, as well as a much-needed home for creative enterprises and cultural projects in what was previously a dreary and underused urban centre.

Westbury will be appearing on a REMIX panel to discuss the growth of creative capitals. With the City’s concerted focus on this area, we thought we’d pick his brain on what works, what doesn’t and how we’re doing as a city.


What made Renew Newcastle so successful? What elements of that work could Sydney learn from?

I think what makes Renew work is that it provides opportunities for small scale creativity to seed and potentially thrive.

It thinks about how the city works at the small scale, for people who have imagination and ideas, but not necessarily capital and seeks to create a dynamic that values that.

Sydney needs to ask those questions of itself – how easy is it to do small things there? What do you need to be viable? You can’t have true diversity in a city that has really high barriers to entry and the sheer cost and scale of that in Sydney has been challenge for a long time.

Fortunately, I think the City of Sydney through its cultural policy, licensing reforms, work on Oxford Street and other things is doing a good job of changing things.

What thinking/philosophies do you draw upon in your approach to creative cities?

My philosophy is to think about culture, initiative and imagination as a real force in the world – one that responds to nudges, incentives, needs and support. I don’t entirely buy the argument that artists are magical people who sprinkle the fairy dust of creativity over everything.

I think they are, for the most part, resilient resourceful, practical people and we need to assist and encourage that. Most importantly, I think creativity comes from the bottom up and not the top down. It’s how the small stuff works and not how many iconic monuments you have that make creative cities.

What do you want to see more of in Sydney?

More small scale diversity. More serendipitous discovery. More things I don’t expect to find.

What are you working on at the moment?

I have almost finished my crowd funded book called Creating Cities, which should be out around June and a new TV series called Bespoke for the ABC.

Find out more about Marcus and his work at For more on REMIX head to

Published: 21 May, 2015 | 0 Comments

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